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Southern France '09
Kalahari 2009
Ethiopia '08
Rwanda Uganda '08
Namibia & Kalahari '07
SE Asia '06
Morocco '06
South Africa/Namibia '05
Meerkats Earthwatch Expedition '05
South Africa/Swaziland '05
Tanzania '03
Namibia '03
South Africa '02
Bali/Java '01/'02
Travel Gallery

Purros to Huab

We left Purros towards Sesfontein and Huab, a very scenic drive. First the narrow valley of Gommadommi river, whose vegetation soon looked much more like Khumib than Hoarusib to whom it is a tributary, with mopane rather than camelthorn trees. The valley then opens up to the Giribes plains, the only place during this trip where we saw fairy circles. Via Ganamub, where we had left for Hoanib some days earlier, we drove to Sesfontein, in order to fuel and possibly buy some gin :-) We got the gin without problems - but no fuel in Sesfontein, as it was Sunday! Instead we saw laundry on the lines all over, seems that Sundays are used for washing and not for fueling your car...

So we drove South to Palmwag in hope of getting fuel there. The landscape south of Khowarib is quite different, with round hills of black and red rubble. Not far from Palmwag, we also saw the first kudus - it seems they don't go much further North. We were lucky in Palmwag, as the fuel station is open on Sundays! We drove on on C43 to Bergsig and 7 Myl Pass, where the view opens to the Damaraland mountains, and we could even see a ghostly outline of Brandberg in the far distance. The highest mountain to the West of Burnt Mountain bears an indentation like a loop-hole - funny that I remembered this one from our last trip, as the loop-hole can be seen from both the Huab and the Ugab side and thus serves as a great orientation point.

We picked our entry into Huab river based on our earlier GPS data. Huab seems less travelled than Hoanib and Hoarusib, there is softer sand, many thorns, and an unpleasantly strong wind. We saw several giraffe, kudu, oryx - and also a startled elephant bull which obviously hadn't heard us coming.

We decided to drive down to a hill made of big black basalt boulders we remembered from our last trip into Huab. That time we had decided to camp outside of the riverbed, because a sandstorm was building up. And also this time, the wind was deafening. We soon arrived at the hill - just to discover another elephant bull. Also this one was more careful towards us than his relatives in the North, but he didn't seem extremely bothered; he sniffed us, picked up a seed-pod, and ambled past our car.

We built our camp near the foot of the hill, in a place a bit sheltered from the wind by big bushes. This day was a big day for me, because we had found out that we had all ingredients for "Älplermagrone", a traditional Swiss meal made of maccaroni, potatoes, onions, bacon, milk and Swiss cheese. Yes, we even did have real Swiss cheese :-) So JJ started to prepare this feast, while I made a short walk to the plains above our camp. Suddenly, he called me from the middle of the riverbed and gestured to come and see. He had seen a snake! Black with yellowish stripes, ca. 1.50 m long - and once she raised her head and displayed her broad neck in best cobra manner. Could have been a spitting cobra... We observed her for a while, to see whether she moved away from or to our camp. Luckily, she obliged, so we could get back to our nice Älplermagrone dinner... Was just fabulous - sometimes, a change to even the best braaivleis is appreciated!


Huab to Burnt Mountain

The next morning was cool again, with fog drawing in from the coast. The fog was just high enough to cover the highest peaks around us, but not the valleys - beautiful view. We drove eastwards to the little village of De Riet, where Huab and Aba Huab meet, and from there out of the riverbed and towards a little pass leading to Twyfelfontein. We then chose to take the left road leading towards the Rendezvous waterhole and the junction of C39 and D3254. From far we saw a settlement on the top of a little elevation in this plain, and coming nearer, we found out that this is Doro !Nawas, the newest Wilderness Lodge in the region. They still seemed busy with constructing the main house on top of the hill, which was surrounded by 16 bungalows plus other houses. We didn't go there, we just enjoyed the view the Wilderness guests can enjoy: of Burnt Mountain and the Huab Mountains to the South, and the Etendeka mountains around 7 Myl Pass to the North. The lodge looked to me a bit crowded - bungalows close together, not much privacy there, seemed a bit out-of-place in this arid environment... well, let's hope that we still can travel our style, in the future, not that they close off their concession to non-guests! Again, we hadn't seen any other car on our Huab trip, between leaving the C39 and getting back to it, and this feeling of solitude is something that should be preserved...

We then drove on towards C39, and from there to Burnt Mountain. Our goal for this day was to reach Ugab Base Camp, near Brandberg West mine. We had tried this route during our earlier trip, but without decent maps, we had then decided to turn back... So this time we hoped to make it, equipped with the 1:250000 Surveyor General map of the Fransfontein region, and our previous track on GPS. There are acutally several signposts on this route - but all of them broken or pointing in a funny direction...

Burnt Mountain, via Doros, to Ugab

This drive from Burnt Mountain to Ugab is gorgeous. Just magnificent. The road can only be negotiated in a 4WD, but it leads through a terrific piece of earth. First around Burnt Mountain, the track is strewn with round rocks of all colors from red to brown to yellow, dotted with the occasional Welwitschia mirabilis. Soon, the clouds cleared, and then Brandberg came into sight - this time not shrouded by a veil of haze as last time, we could clearly see this huge stone tortoise now! Soon, also Doros Crater came into view. To the North we suddenly saw another construction site on a hill, with a ridiculously steep road leading to it. Back home, we found out that this is a half-illegal construction site for a new lodge called Red Mountain Lodge (more info here). Well, it is a pity to build anything in this hyper-arid wilderness, but the views are just - GREAT.

We proceeded westwards, sticking to our previous GPS tracks. The Fransfontein map actually doesn't show this track, but it is easy to find - either contact me for our GPS data, or head towards the waterhole indicated on the map northeast of Doros. This track leads around Doros counter-clockwise, first through a nice little gorge and then following the slopes of Doros Crater. I thought about climbing to the rim of the crater - probably a 45-60 min hike on rolling round stones. Must be a gorgeous view from up there, and even an old, cold crater is something very special if you live in the Alps... We decided to drive on, but someday I'd like to do this! West of Doros, the track leaves the crater's slopes, and heads westwards. The scenery changes several times, now: sandfields, fields of round rubble, fields of flaky stones, then again sandfields - and all this with the view of Brandberg to the South and the Huab Mountains (also the one with the loop-hole) to the North.

We then reached the point where we had turned back, after a flat tyre, the last time. We got out of our car, to celebrate that we would now enter uncharted land (for us) - but also to discover the faint outlines of tyre tracks turning. Could it be that those where still our tracks, 2.5 years old? Well, probably yes. I still feel ashamed about these 3 meters of unnecessary tracks. A memento to REALLY stick to the existing tracks, one of the rules we usually strictly adhere to! Funnily enough, we saw petrified rhino dung just a bit onwards - welcome to rhino country!

We drove for only 20 more minutes until we reached the junction we had so much longed for the last time. Well, it was easy to find since we met two cars there - felt like a traffic jam! One road leads towards Huab in the North (the quickest way between Ugab and Huab, okay road, just a big corrugated and probably less scenic than the long way around Burnt Mountain), one towards Gai-As (ruins of an early settlement and waterhole, now deserted) in the West, one down South to Ugab and then the one from East where we came from. I suppose we would have found the junction easily, the last time - but we probably wouldn't have made it down to the Ugab Base Camp before nightfall, as this is 2 more hrs to drive, on very rugged terrain.

From the junction, the track "dives" down towards Ugab, following a riverbed. There is a sign after a few hundred meters, pointing to a shortcut back to Burnt Mountain, which seems okay. The landscape that followed now was one of the most stunning I've ever seen - a feeling that doubled when I later saw a satellite picture of this region... The Ugab catchment, in this region, is transsected by the most intriguing geological folds, called "torn turbidites", i.e. parallel lines of rock slabs sticking out of the sand at regular intervals, forming rows of parallel black hills in the grey sand. And this in a an area of... well, maybe 60 by 40 km or even more!!! They are tilted to the West, I imagined it looks as if you drive into the mouth of a giant dragon, its teeth sticking towards you, when you drive up from Ugab... Do check out this link with the satellite image!

"Slabs or rock sticking out of the sand" doesn't sound nice to your car, so JJ drove very slowly here, time for me to walk, watch his driving art and the surroundings. The track usually crosses a row of teeth, then follows the "valley" in between, to then cross the next row. There is a little source surrounded by reed - but the water is so salty that it forms salt ponds and crystals. Well, finally we arrived in a bigger riverbed: Ugab - and soon we saw a few rhinos made of scrap metal, welcoming us to Ugab Base Camp. We've made it!


Ugab base camp

Ugab Base Camp (contact email here) is one of the outposts of Save the Rhino Trust (SRT), an organization headquartered at Palmwag. Cooperating with Save the Rhino International, they are researching the black rhino population in the region, based on locals trained as rangers. An excellent community project, which also does excellent marketing for the rhino cause.

The camp features 6 campsites near the riverbed. Each site has a big tree for shade, a braai area and is surrounded by a reed fence with a sign to "Beware of Elephants and Lions". Toilets and showers are in separate reed enclosures a few steps away - the hot showers mostly being bucket showers, with water heated in a barrel over a fire. The sites are comfortably far away from each other, though not so "overgrown" and secluded as my favorite Purros, meaning you can still overlook the whole camp.

The main house offers a little curio shop, with many good-quality items made by the people living nearby, as well as a small exhibition showing posters about themes relevant to the region: rhinos, other fauna and flora, the geology, information about the ephemeral rivers of Namibia, about the surrounding conservancies and tourism developments (somewhat outdated)... The base camp can also be visited by school classes, which provides both conservation education and outdoor fun. A few meters from the main house is the little village where the families of the rangers live, with several kids. I imagine they are very isolated there - so this is maybe the place to leave this pair of trousers you wanted to leave in Namibia anyway, or a few pencils for the kids...

We decided to stay for two nights, and we spent the one full day with a morning walk and a lazy afternoon. The walk down the riverbed is fantastic - even though the thing with the lions kind of pops up in your head from time to time... The first piece is rather boring, but after passing along the sides of a dense shrub filling the whole valley, you reach the wetlands. Swamps, a little pond with egyptian geese, little rivers flowing, reeds swaying in the wind, several bushes in flower - and a family of oryx curiously eyeing you! A strange sight in the midst of those torn mountains! We followed the riverbed for ca. 1.5 hrs or 4 km. After a small lunch I decided to build a cairn there - let me know if you happen to see it :-) We walked back on the other side of the valley, just before the day got really hot.

The next morning, we visited the old, deserted Brandberg West mine (a hole in the ground and some decaying buildings around), and then drove onwards to Uis and Ameib...

Last update:  20:34 04/04 2007
Kalahari Meerkats
Augrabies NP
Naries - more flowers
Kleinzee diamond mine
Namibia's South, Orange
Fish River Canyon
Koichab Dunes
D707 scenic route
Büllsport & Naukluft
Windhoek & Waterberg
Outjo & Khowarib Gorge
Hoanib & Amspoort
Desert Elephants
Purros, Hoarusib & Khumib
Huab, Doros, Ugab
Erongo, Boshua, WDH
Travel facts
Gallery of this trip

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